B.C.’s first-ever Spearfishing Summit at Tofino Resort + Marina on April 23 was filled with freediving and sport fishing talk as much as it was reconciliation.
The community gathering raised $21,192.46 in one night to support the Nuu-chah-nulth Warrior Program, an Indigenous youth leadership program established in 2015 that is now hosted in six Nuu-chah-nulth communities (Huu-ay-aht, Ditidaht, Tla-o-qui-aht, Kyuquot Checleseht, Tseshaht and Ucluelet First Nation) and Old Massett on Haida Gwaii.
Dr. Ricardo Manmohan, a supporter of the Warrior Program, said they are charting new territory. He offered a symbolic quote from South African anti-apartheid and human rights activist Bishop Desmond Tutu:
“There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they are falling in,” Manmohan shared at the event.
“And this work, is definitely upstream. We don’t call it suicide prevention. We call it sitting in circle and talking,” he said.
Over the years the Nuu-chah-nulth Warrior Program has grown to include talks on sexual health, driver training, cabin building, and trail building. Reconnecting youth to the land is a guiding principal, and most recently, they were able to secure funding to teach youth about snorkeling and freediving so they can harvest seafood from the inter-tidal zones.
Thanks to the money raised at the Spearfishing Summit, which was the brainchild of Bottom Dwellers Freediving owner Chris Adair, 36 sets of advanced snorkeling gear will be distributed amongst each Warrior Nation, plus Ahousaht. Willie Mitchell, event host and managing partner of Tofino Resort + Marina, was notably grateful to his team and to the seafaring community for coming together to lift up the Indigenous youth, on his birthday nonetheless.
“I just want to thank everyone very, very much. It means a lot,” said Mitchell.
Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation Hayden Seitcher spoke about being part of the Warrior Program. At first, he said a friend dragged out to the program.
“To be brutally honest, I was forced. I didn’t love it until I was really deep in. I felt like it created a space where I could be myself. For me, what it means is creating a space for youth. That’s what this program is about. We’re creating a space for them to do the things that they want to do and allow them to grow with healthy mentors and healthy friends,” said Seitcher.
The first rule in the sport of spearfishing reflects a similar team spirit of the Warriors Leadership Program:
“Always go with a dive buddy. Never go alone. Sometimes a big fish takes a lot of teamwork to get out of the hole,” said Adair.
Anyone interested in learning more or donating to the Warrior Family is encourage to visit the Giving Portal hosted by the Clayoquot Biosphere Trust.
Useful Links for getting into seafood harvesting